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Annville's Allen Theatre likely to remain under same ownership

Written by Lee Dussinger, Lebanon Daily News | Jun 24, 2015 11:00 AM

(Annville) -- The Allen Theatre and MJ's Coffeehouse, 36-38 E. Main St., a popular, single-screen, 322-seat theatre and coffeehouse, have been on the real estate market for close to a year following owner Allen "Skip" Hicks' plans for retirement, but he says that increasingly he doesn't want to retire and sell his business yet.


Photo by Michael K. Dakota, Lebanon Daily News

The Allen Theatre and MJ's Coffeehouse have been a mainstay of downtown Annville for decades. And although it's on the market, owner Skip Hicks now says he's leaning toward keeping the property.

"The more I get an idea of what retirement might look like, the less I want to do it," Hicks said.

The price is listed at $1,100,000, and the property is represented by Prudential Gacono Real Estate, 50 W. Main Street, Annville. When the contract to sell the Allen Theatre expires in the near future, Hicks says that he is unlikely to renew it, effectively keeping ownership in his hands.

Opened in 1995 after a three year remodeling campaign, The Allen Theatre has shown first-run new releases as well as classic, silent films with accompaniment by live musicians. In addition, the theatre and MJ's Coffeehouse also provide performance spaces for local musicians, including jazz by Central Pa Friends of Jazz. Under Hicks' ownership, the theatre has become a beloved part of the Annville community. In addition, it has been featured in Central PA Magazine and named by as one of the 12 best local theatres in America.

Township administrator Nick Yingst said the Allen Theatre serves as a draw for Annville.

"It is a gem within the community, and it draws people into Annville with the unique experience it provides," Yingst said.

The Allen Theatre does not utilize a digital projector but instead screens films on a 35 millimeter film projector. This limits the films it can show, as the majority of film distribution companies only offer new releases digitally.

In 2013, Annville Township applied for a $95,000 state grant to be used as a low interest loan to the Allen Theatre for the purchase of a digital projector system. This initiative failed, however, leaving the Allen Theatre with its traditional 35-mm projector.

In the early part of the 20th century, the location was named the Astor and showed popular films of the period, according to the Allen Theatre's website. In the following decades the theatre showed pornographic films and later Christian-themed entertainment. It was after this period that Hicks purchased the property and began the renovations.

The Allen Theatre and MJ's Coffeehouse have a connection to the students at Lebanon Valley College as well. The theatre screens educational films that supplement the curriculum, according to LVC senior and Vice President of Student Programming Olivia Edwards. In addition, MJ's Coffeehouse has events in which LVC student bands perform, and LVC attendees can enjoy free coffee.

"It is the closest business in our hearts. If it were to go away, there would be nothing to replace," said Edwards. "No one is as kind and generous as the Allen." The Allen Theatre also employs several LVC students, Edwards said.

Other independent theatres in nearby cities include: Zoetropolis Art House and Theatre in Lancaster, Midtown Cinema in Harrisburg, and Penn Cinema in Lititz.

The Allen Theatre is currently showing the Disney/Pixar film "Inside Out" at 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

This article comes to us through a partnership between the Lebanon Daily News and WITF. 

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